H&R Block’s software is a solid contender in the crowded market for tax software, and its network of brick-and-mortar locations offers a warm, fuzzy security blanket. The interface is straightforward and easy to use, and the free version is one of the best on the market.
- Early in the tax season, the free version includes support for Schedule A, meaning itemizers can use it
- 12,000 locations and options to get face-to-face help
- For the price you pay, you won’t get best-in-class features
H&R Block’s prices
Earlier in the tax season, H&R Block’s free software filed all three versions of the 1040 (1040EZ, 1040A and regular 1040 with a Schedule A). Finding the 1040 included in the free version of software is a rarity in the marketplace, which makes it a pity that the company only offered it for a limited time this year: The free version now works only with the 1040EZ and 1040A.
As for the paid versions, H&R Block is a solid choice. It’s not as flashy as TurboTax, but it’ll get you from Point A to Point B on your tax return without any trouble. And at list price, it isn’t discount software, but it’s also generally not the costliest option either. All of this makes it a solid choice for value-seekers who still want sturdy support options and modern features.
The list price of H&R Block’s highest-end package is cheaper than the comparable package from TurboTax, which means self-employed people or folks with rental properties could save a few bucks here.
Available packages and list prices
|Free edition||Federal: $0
This option allows you to file a 1040EZ or 1040A (for a limited time early in the tax season, it also did the 1040 with a Schedule A). The free version can’t store your tax return (paid versions can store for six years).
Good for itemizers, but if you’re filing a Schedule C-EZ (for freelancers with very simple expenses), you’ll need to buy the Premium version.
If you’re an investor or have rental property (that is, you need to file a Schedule D or Schedule E), this is for you.
New this year, this package does it all for small business owners, freelancers and independent contractors. It also imports Uber driver tax information and integrates with the expense-tracking app Stride Tax.
One note about prices: Providers frequently change theirs. We’ll keep updating this review, but you can verify the latest price by clicking through to H&R Block’s site.
H&R Block also offers desktop software, but it’s not part of our review. Desktop means your return doesn’t reside in the cloud; it stays on your computer while you work on it. People who have used the desktop version before will see a cosmetic difference with the cloud, but the steps are similar — and, of course, the math is the same.
H&R Block’s features and ease of use
H&R Block’s interface is good-looking, straightforward and easy to use, there are handy tools like a W-2 photo import, which lets you avoid time spent keying in numbers from little boxes. Because the software is online, you can log in from other devices if you choose to work on your return here and there.
Help is available within the preparation process — many terms are hyperlinked so that you can read a definition or get more information, and the software is quick to send confused users to a searchable knowledge base. Like most software packages, a banner running across the top keeps track of where you are in the return process.
All versions will import last year’s return from TurboTax, Tax Act, Credit Karma or any other tax prep company, and you can import your 1099s, too. The free version does not automatically import last year’s return, though.
The mobile app was redesigned this year. On it you can upload photos of your W-2s and 1099s (two less things to key in, right?), and you can do your return entirely in the app if you want.
Support options with H&R Block
H&R Block’s online tax packages have a second line of defense in the enormous band of human tax preparers at the company’s 12,000 or so offices nationwide. Help at a brick-and-mortar stores isn’t free, of course, but it helps to know you can go there if you get hopelessly wrapped around the axle. Users of all the paid packages do get free online chat with a tax expert.
If you want a human to check your homework, you can purchase the Tax Pro Review add-on feature, which costs between $49.99 and $89.99 depending on which software package you buy. This competes directly with a similar offering from TurboTax.
H&R Block says people who provide tax support and review tax returns submitted for Tax Pro Review are graduates of its 60-hour Income Tax Course and must complete at least 18 hours of continuing education and an average of 20 hours of skills training on policies and procedures every year. The tax pros handling Tax Pro Review returns are “certified at H&R Block’s highest levels and are our most tenured and experienced tax professionals,” according to the company.
Tax chat and Ask a Tax Advisor are available Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT, and on weekends, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT. Tech support chat is available 24/7. Tech support via phone is available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to midnight CT, and on weekends, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT.
If you’re audited
First, if you’re concerned about an IRS audit, be sure you know the difference between “support” and “defense.” With most providers, audit support typically means one-on-one guidance from a tax pro about what to expect and how to prepare — that’s it. Audit defense, on the other hand, gets you full representation before the IRS from a tax professional.
Ways to get help
- Searchable knowledge base.
- Free tech support via chat.
- Expert tax advice via chat (paid users only).
- About 12,000 locations.
- Tax Pro Review add-on (starts at $49.99).
H&R Block offers online users a sort of combo product called Worry-Free Audit Support. This gets you one-on-one with a tax professional to help guide you through an audit. It costs $19.99 and includes IRS correspondence management, audit preparation and in-person audit representation.
On top of that, you can buy something called Tax ID Care, which helps you apply for an Identity Protection PIN or Identity Theft Indicator if it turns out criminals have used your personal info to file a fake tax return. That runs $14.99. (If you buy Tax ID Care and Worry-Free Audit Support together, you’ll pay $24.99, which saves ten bucks).
No matter how you file, you can choose to receive your refund via direct deposit to a bank account (the fastest option), loaded onto an H&R Block Emerald prepaid debit MasterCard or in the form of a paper check. Other options include applying the refund to next year’s taxes or directing the IRS to buy U.S. Savings Bonds with your refund.
If you buy a paid version of H&R Block, you have the option of paying for it out of your refund (if you’re getting one). But there’s a $39.95 charge to do so.
How H&R Block compares
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|H&R Block’s software is a solid contender in the crowded market for tax software, and its network of brick-and-mortar locations offers a warm, fuzzy security blanket.|
The interface is straightforward and easy to use, and the free version is one of the best on the market.
|TurboTax stands out for how easy it is to use and its intuitive design and flow.|
It’s pricier than most, but while confident filers may not need the bells and whistles and can find better value elsewhere, many people will find this experience to be worth a few extra dollars.
|TaxAct’s no-nonsense design will be a turnoff for some, but the cost is lower than many competitors and there’s phone and chat support.
The interface isn’t fancy, and there’s less of a Q&A feel than other packages, but the data-entry process in general is similar to most and there are plenty of tools to help you along.
The bottom line
H&R Block offers solid filing options at a reasonable price. If you want to file your taxes online but would feel better knowing you can run to a human at a desk in a brick-and-mortar office if you get stuck, H&R Block is a good choice.